Women play a vitally important role in a whole range of agricultural activities. According to the Pew Research Centre, women make up at least half the productive workforce in some African countries. In addition to their role as food producers, they are responsible for preparing food in the home and ensuring that their families have a nutritious diet. However, it tends to be men, rather than women, who undertake and mostly benefit from profitable activities along agricultural value chains.
In 2018, CTA launched a new project, VALUE4HER, which is designed to strengthen women’s agribusiness enterprises in Southern, Eastern and Western Africa, as well as in the Caribbean. “I think it will make a real difference to the lives of large numbers of women, and help them move towards the business end of value chains where most of the profits are to be found,” says Sabdiyo Dido Bashuna, CTA Senior Technical Adviser for Value Chains & Agribusiness. The 2-year project aims to help 100 large-scale women-led agribusinesses access high-value markets. These, in turn, will benefit around 10,000 medium-scale agribusinesses and 50,000 women.
The project has three main components. The first two, which will be launched in 2019, are designed to help women-led agribusinesses access high-value agricultural markets. They will do this in two ways: by providing women with access to market intelligence and price information; and by providing women with the training and skills they need to improve their business performance.
The third component aims to build women’s capacity to manage and expand their businesses by improving their skills, knowledge and networks.
One of the main activities for 2018 involved the design and development of a digital agribusiness intelligence portal for women agripreneurs in Africa. This aims to bridge the information gap that repeatedly disadvantages women in agricultural markets. To this end, a call for registration of women agribusinesses was made in East and Southern Africa. By early 2019, 350 women agripreneurs were registered and the portal was under construction. The agripreneurs will receive customised services ranging from market information and business intelligence to well-targeted training and self-development modules. Additionally, financiers and other business service providers will be able to reach women agripreneurs.
In 2018, CTA and its South African lead partner – African Women Innovation and Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) – hosted a global event that featured best practices in women entrepreneurship in general, and women agripreneurship in particular. They also launched the VALUE4HER Women Agripreneur of the Year Awards, which recognised and celebrated women who had excelled in different parts of the agricultural value chain. The awards ceremony took place in Cape Town, South Africa, at the 4th AWIEF Conference.
The three winners included a wide range of women-led businesses of varying sizes and age groups. A Kenyan company, Exotic EPZ Ltd, works directly with smallholder farmers to maximise their yields and profits from macadamia nuts and three different tree oils. Elgin Free Range Chickens, established 20 years ago, is now one of the largest businesses of its kind in South Africa. Agrisolve in Ghana works with smallholder farmers to improve their access to inputs and technology, as well as guaranteed markets for their produce. These three winners – Exotic EPZ, Elgin Free Range Chickens, and Agrisolve – received trophies and certificates, as well as significant cash prizes, from CTA.
Just as importantly, according to Irene Ochem, Executive Director of AWIEF, they and other entrants provide a tremendous example to others. “The awards recognised women who had excelled and showed great innovation in their businesses,” she says. “We hope that this awards ceremony will motivate those already in the business to do better, inspire more women to get into agribusinesses and help change perceptions about women’s ability to establish and develop successful businesses’’.